Will Short: 'We made it clear - we cannot accept girls being discriminated against when it comes to equity and allocation of space in city arenas'

By Pepper Parr

December 12th, 2023



Will Short, president of the Burlington Girls Hockey Club was delegating on ice time allocation.

The release of the city’s Life Plan report, that included a section on facility prioritization criteria, brought Short to the Council Chamber podium.

“Preliminary facility criteria has been identified to assist with prioritizing investment and reinvestment to address needs for parks, recreation and cultural assets” said Short who went on to say:

Will Short, president of the Burlington Girls Hockey Club

“The timing on this comes when we’re entering into our ice allocation commitments for August of 2025; these have been in place since 2009. What we have learned throughout this process is that there is a massive gender inequality between boys and girls hockey ice allocation.

“An example: we represent 850 girls; the Eagles represent 650 Boys. The Eagles have 800 hours more ice than we do annually.

“Our assumption when we were entering into this was the struggles to provide the level of programming that other girl hockey organizations in Oakville, Milton and Stony Creek was due to the lack of ice pads in Burlington. What we have come to realize is that it’s more of the disparity and gender inequality between ice hours within the girls and boys organizations.

“We discovered that Burlington had adopted a policy in 2007 called the gender equity in the allocation of public recreational spaces. The key principles of this policy were applying a continually and up to apply and continually update the allocation policy and the allocation procedures to effectively respond to community needs while allocating facilities in a fair and balanced manner.

“On paper, the gender equity policies seem to be a triumph for female sport in the city of Burlington and was touted by many news articles on getting gender equity in sport right.

“In March of 2020. The gender equity policy was rescinded to be replaced by a framework for community recreation which in our opinion does not contain specific protections for females in sport.”

Jr Cudas : the 2023/24 season team photo

“The allocation of facilities in our last ice allocation meeting in December of 2023 city staff acknowledged that there is a severe gender equity issue and that it needs to be addressed  at some point. In our last correspondence on the matter with the City of Burlington, we made it clear that we cannot accept girls being discriminated against when it comes to equity  and the allocation of exclusive spaces when within the city of Burlington arenas.

“We don’t have time within our 10 minutes today. But another issue that we have when it comes to exclusive spaces. Our U22 Junior team, which would be the equivalent of the Burlington Cougars and the OG HL, currently gets a dressing room that is significantly smaller. And if you look at what other city councils have done in the past, or recently in Brampton, where they gave $200,000 to the u 22 Junior team and provided a brand new dressing room within an arena that they provided for exclusive use for that team. We’re not getting the same allocation of exclusive places within the city of Burlington arenas.

“In our opinion, the Live Play and Plan consultation did very little in way of specifically invested in investigating gender equity, and therefore does very little to address the gender inequality when it comes to facilities allocation. It was very obvious that there were equity issues in 2007 when the gender equity policy was adopted, and it has continued to be an issue not only for our organization, but others.

“You can look at the Burlington Youth Soccer decision that was made in 2011. On a similar issue with soccer facilities within the city. On our end, we meet several criteria that the Live the Life Play Plan adopts. As its priorities, equity, access to participation rates and enhancing social well-being and community engagement.”

Kristy Braun, Director of Communications

Kristy Braun, Director of Communications with the BGHC explained “the City adopted a policy titled gender equity in the allocation of public recreational spaces. One of the key policies, was to apply and continually update the allocation policy and the allocation procedures to effectively respond to community needs.

“When it comes to hockey during the 2018 19 season, girls made up 21% of registration in Ontario, which is a 5% increase from just four seasons earlier. However, the ice allocation of the BJHC did not change in the four years, nor has it changed in the past 13 years. Very strange since the gender equity in the allocation of public recreational spaces policy was in effect from 2007 to 2020.

Now it’s a possibility that the allocations haven’t changed in the past three years, because in 2020, the gender equity policy was rescinded and replaced by the Burlington framework for community recreation, which contains no specific protections for females in sport or gender equity.

“And allocation of facilities. As you will have also read in the report growth in girls hockey is driven by many factors, one being promotion of sport participation among girls. The BGHC has embarked on a huge initiative this year, called Grow the Game.  We have removed all socio-economic barriers for girls four to six in age to play hockey. This was accomplished through our organizations funds as well as generous sponsors.

Kristy Braun continued “When the city of Burlington was approached to come alongside the BGHC  and assist with this initiative they declined. They’ve had zero involvement with introducing girls to our sport, including declining our most recent grant application. Because of the dedication of our volunteers and sponsors, most of the barriers for these girls to participate have been removed. In fact, the only barrier that these four, five and six year old girls are facing is the ability to access the ice for more than 35 minutes per week, while the boys organizations in the same age bracket are on the ice for 120 to 180 minutes per week.

“This inequity is due to the lack of ice allocated to girls hockey. The data from the City reflects the inequity of ice allocation and the staff at the city are aware of these issues. So far there have been no remedies to rectify this discrimination. We know that when girls have a positive sport experience, they are more likely to reap the benefits of sport participation and grow into confident and motivated leaders. By not updating the allocation procedures and fairly distributing ice allocations to the girls in Burlington they are being discriminated against by the city. If the City of Burlington wants to ensure that all residents have the right to play, foster individual well-being and create a sense of belonging which is set out in the the framework for community recreation. Girls need to be provided the same opportunity as boys.”

Mayor Meed Ward: There’s just too much demand and not enough ice.

Mayor Meed Ward commented: “this is an eye opener. You mentioned that the city declined a grant application. Can you give us more details on what that was about?”

Braun: “You can apply for up to $30,000 in funding.  Our Grow the Game program actually met all of the criteria. We had a great meeting with the city staff, who were a part of that grant process. There was a lot of confusion as to just how funds could be made available.”

The issue from the city’s end was that if we were to be provided the $29,000 in grant money, we wouldn’t meet our ice allocation requirements. Conversations on that issue are continuing

Meed Ward: “I’m guessing we’re going to hear is that there’s just too much demand and not enough ice. Would you say that that is part of the issue ?

Braun: Yeah, we just need more ice.

So as a good example, with the Grow the Game program, we opened up registration and within four days we hit 250 applicants for the program. We were willing to take 350 as part of the programming but we weren’t able to provide the existing 600 members of organization with the programming needs that they had while also providing the 250 applicants.

A good example – one program which is predominantly five year olds are getting 35 minutes a week. Other organizations are getting two to three hours.

Angelo Bentivegna: Your numbers are comparable to both the other boys leagues ?

Councillor Bentivegna added: This has come full circle; I thought the problems were solved back then. Can you remind me again, how many members are in your organization? Our registration was capped at 850 we could have had 950

“We are hoping to run the Grow the Game program for the next five years. And if the numbers returned like they did this year, you would have 50% of that program returning and you’d have 50% new to the sport. So approximately 100 to 150 people based on the trends that we had this year with the application; so next year we would be in and around 950 The year after we would be above 1000. But right now we don’t have the ability to grow at that pace because we wouldn’t have any ice to put them on.

Bentivegna: “So your numbers are comparable to both the other boys leagues I guess. So my understanding is BOMA has a significantly larger house league program. The Eagles, our only  rep program, are in around 650.”

Clearly more ice time is needed – which means more ice pads and a different approach to creating new ice pads.



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3 comments to Will Short: ‘We made it clear – we cannot accept girls being discriminated against when it comes to equity and allocation of space in city arenas’

  • Sarah A

    With kids in both the above mentioned hockey clubs, I question the comparison between Eagles and Barracudas. Eagles is a Representative level club—only, while Barracudas have House league and Representative streams. The comparison isn’t completely accurate.

    Additionally, a third and even larger club, BLOHMA, self described as the largest hockey club in Burlington with 1800 players participating in house league up to Select level play.

    As you can see, and should have written about, there is an astounding number of youth hockey players—both male and female—competing with the local Old Timers hockey league to secure ice times. Add to that recreational skating, figure skating, and you can see that the broader issue here in Burlington is a lack of enough available ice surfaces appropriate for all ages to play on.

    Plus, since at least prior to Covid, we’ve been operating with one less ice surface open each year while the city upgraded Mountainside, Aldershot, and currently Skyway arenas.

    When you look at the huge need for a quad facility here in the city (Like Milton Sports Centre, or Sixteen Mile Creek), with ice rinks that are sized correctly for the players (Nelson, Mountainside, Aldershot, and Skyway are all too small for games for U12 and up players), I can see that all three of Burlington’s hockey clubs should work together to push for more ice to be built here.

    Perhaps the city could re-evaluate the need for their own pay increase and put taxpayer money towards facilities, and services that actually fulfill the needs of our growing city.

  • Gary Scobie

    So an earlier Council wisely and thoughtfully adopted a gender equity policy for the allocation of public recreational spaces in 2007. And it was to be updated over time to reflect the changing numbers of participants and adjusted to meet the goals defined. Sounds like a good plan

    Fast forward to 2020 and our current Council members decide to instead create a “framework” for community recreation that drops the 2007 policy’s protections for females in sports. Have I got that right?

    If so, I think we should recall the Council members of 2007 who are alive and well and have them replace as many of the current Council members as possible. It would be a necessary improvement all around in my humble opinion.

    • David

      I admit to being wrong for casting my vote for this new council. In my defence they did hide their intentions very well.